Vice President, Strategy & Stakeholder Engagement, The Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships
Investing in well-designed, constructed, and maintained infrastructure that meets the needs of today — and is resilient enough to meet the challenges of tomorrow — has never been of greater importance.
The events of the past 18 months, from the devastation of the pandemic to the extreme heat, wildfires, and flooding caused by climate change, have amply demonstrated that waiting to repair, upgrade, or build new infrastructure is a recipe for disaster, causing greater economic and social hardships for governments and citizens alike over the long term.
Investing in infrastructure is also a proven way to quickly jumpstart economic activity and to enable greater opportunities for job and economic growth in the future to ensure our communities thrive.
Approaching infrastructure with a mindset open to innovation, like in a P3 project, can also lead to amazing results that benefit the public.
Across Canada, governments at all levels have responded to this crisis with commitments to invest tens of billions of dollars in critical infrastructure projects, from new hospitals and long-term care homes to transformative urban transit, innovative energy, and high-speed internet access for Canadians in communities large and small.
But beyond helping governments achieve their ambitious goals to get shovels in the ground quickly, we also need to examine how we can better harness cutting-edge technology, embed inclusiveness and diversity, and think sustainably in our projects.
A big part of this is considering how to stretch taxpayer dollars further given mounting government deficits and a lack of public appetite for increased taxes, and how to install more rigour in understanding, planning, and budgeting for life cycle maintenance of our infrastructure so it can reliably function for decades to come.
The public-private partnership (P3) approach is particularly well-positioned to rise to the challenge. A significant portion of the infrastructure built in Canada over the past 30 years has been through the country’s globally-recognized P3 model. These partnerships, which most often involve long-term private investment, fuel government procurement efficiency, enabling better use of public funds. Research has also shown that, when used for the appropriate projects, they’re less likely to suffer cost and schedule overruns because of increased accountability and oversight.
Approaching infrastructure with a mindset open to innovation, like in a P3 project, can also lead to amazing results that benefit the public. This includes such things as innovative financing, using drones and robotics, different building materials, and greener technology. Already as a result of the pandemic, infrastructure experts are looking at how to integrate new solutions and flexibility into building hospitals, for example, to make the Canadian health care system more resilient and adaptable in future pandemics. The investments — and innovations — we make now will have a profound impact on enabling the future of Canadian communities from coast to coast to coast to thrive and prosper.
This article was sponsored by The Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships (CCPPP).